Posted by: imalqata | February 27, 2014

It’s All Hieratic to Me

Thursday, February 27, 2014
During the first season of excavation, we eagerly kept an eye out for jar labels. These are the dockets written on large storage jars and amphorae that identify their contents and the place delivering the provision. In the 1916-17 season, Ambrose Lansing uncovered a very important deposit of them just outside the south wall of the Amun temple among hundreds of sherds from vessels that had been opened and then thrown away. Many of the sherds bore inscriptions and those jar labels made their way to MMA at the end of the excavation in a division of finds undertaken by the Egyptian Antiquities Service in 1917. (see blog post “Food for the Fiest, February 10, 2013)

Jar label found on Feb. 26, 2014

Jar label found on Feb. 26, 2014

We looked in vain in 2010 and 2012 for a sherd bearing a docket. By 2013, I no longer expected to find one, although the workmen continued to check both sides of each sherd. We have analyzed many bags of pottery without a single jar label surfacing. However, our luck changed two days ago. Mahmoud was brushing over the top

Jar label as found

Jar label as found

of radim, that is, material made from a mix of mud, mud-brick, pottery sherds, and sometimes little stones from the desert that is all swept together and packed into large spaces as support for flooring or walls. It is not dissimilar in concept to leveling fill, but is used in much bigger spaces and can be created from material taken from a number of different sources. The thin levelling fill we see under house floors comes from debris generated in the village.

After Mahmoud called to me, he showed me this lovely little sherd lying there in situ with its inscription up and clear (well fairly clear). It is amazing that it was found just like that. Those of you who know me, know that I am definitely a field archaeologist and not an ancient language specialist. However Catharine and Joel, who arrived Sunday night to carry out mapping, both dredged up their rusty hieratic and made a stab and definitely ended up in the right direction. We did all agree though to send it off to several colleagues for comment and the general concensus was that the readable inscription (a small section at the top is too abbreviated and unclear to translate), says “king’s wife,” may she live. According to William Hayes, who published the earlier MMA cache, the phrase is often part of the phrase “the domain of the king’s wife” from which fat, wine, ale and other things were supplied to Malqata. The king’s wife mentioned may well have been Tiye.
Niv Allon, a research scholar at the MMA, kindly assisted us and found two parallels from the dockets on display at the MMA which we include here.

Jar Lable 17.10.400. Rogers Fund, 1917

Jar Lable 17.10.400. Rogers Fund, 1917

One reads: “[ale] (for) offerings of the domain of the king’s wife, may she live…for the first Sed-festival of his majesty, life, prosperity, and health.”

Jar label 17.10.23. Rogers Fund, 1917

Jar label 17.10.23. Rogers Fund, 1917

The second says: “ [Year X]+1, wine of …[the domain] of the king’s wife.”

Diana Craig Patch


  1. I hope there would be a Translation for more Hieratic Jar labels from Malqata
    As this two Examples

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